footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘fc basel’

The Road to Turin

So, we have our Europa League quarterfinal matchups.

Juventus v Lyon
Benfica v AZ
Porto v Sevilla
Valencia v FC Basel

I stick by my prediction that Juventus will win this tournament. They’re still the best team left in the draw, and the final will be played at Juventus Stadium. How could they NOT win this?

How Europa League is like the CTA Brown Line

It eventually gets to its destination, but it sure does take a damn long time to get there.

That’s right, as the Uefa Champions League is working toward its last 8, the Europa League is just getting to matchups for its last 16. This is why the Europa League gets a bad rap. With other competitions beginning to wind down, it seems annoying that there’s still SO MUCH left of this one.

AZ Alkmaar vs. Anzhi Makhachkala
Basel vs. FC Red Bull Salzburg
FC Porto vs. Napoli
Juventus vs. Fiorentina
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Valencia CF
Lyon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Sevilla vs. Real Betis
Tottenham vs. Benfica

I’m actually looking forward to quite a few of these matches: Basel v Salzburg, Porto v Napoli and Tottenham v Benfica all have potential to produce thrilling games. And that’s before we even get to Juventus vs. Fiorentina.

Another international break beckons next week. You know my feelings.

Welcome back, Europa League

Today’s results have me feeling good about my decision to fancy the unfancied.

Not sure how it happened, but FC Salzburg (aka Red Bull Salzburg) beat Ajax 3-0 – in Amsterdam no less. Likewise, how did Dnipro beat Tottenham.

Other teams that unexpectedly prevailed – or drew – against more well-known opposition: PFC Ludogorets of Bulgaria somehow beat Lazio 1-0. FC Chornomorets Odesa held Lyon to a 0-0 draw, while Maccabi Tel Aviv also held FC Basel 0-0. Maribor drew Sevilla 2-2 – after taking an early lead. Anzhi and Genk also played to a 0-0, which puts a dent in my only-the-Champions-League-KO-stages-are-cagey thesis. (I guess the high stakes in European competition makes everyone cautious)

Juventus easily beat Trabzonspor, and this leads me to my main prediction for this season’s Europa League. I’m not a big fan of declarative it-shall-be-so statements, but Juventus have to win this competition easily. Frankly, they are the best team left in it, and no other team should even get NEAR beating them from now through the final.

The lone surprise of this matchday was Swansea City and Napoli drawing 0-0. I can’t believe Napoli couldn’t score ONE goal during that game.

And So the Group Stage Ends

After six matchdays, the UEFA Champions League has whittled to 16 the 32 teams that began the Group Stage in September. Along the way, some groups threw up surprises (Ciao, Juventus), while others stayed tight until almost the last kick.

At the start of the Group Stage, I made my picks for winners and runners-up. So, how did I do?

In Group A, I picked Manchester United and Bayer LeverKeusen to prevail, and they did – though not before putting out some lackluster performances. Group B was supposed to yield Real Madrid and Juventus as winner and runner-up, respectively. But while the Spaniards did their part (progressing through the group undefeated), Juventus started the competition playing badly and were eventually eliminated on this last matchday by Galatasary. Likewise, in Group C, Benfica, my pick for runner-up to Paris Saint-Germain, are out of the tournament; Greek team Olympiacos is going to the round of 16 instead.

Group D proved to be status quo as defending champions Bayern Munich and Manchester City are on to the next round – the latter for the first time. No doubt Man City will take confidence from their defeat of Bayern on the final matchday.

Despite twice defeating Chelsea, Switzerland’s FC Basel are out of the competition after losing to Schalke 04. Honestly, this is surprising to me. Basel played Chelsea off the park TWICE, and Schalke have been weaksauce in this competition and in the Bundesliga. Yet Chelsea and Schalke are the teams that ended up going through from Group E. At least I got the winner and runner-up right for this group!

As advertised, the Group of Death (Group F) showed no mercy, as Napoli were eliminated despite beating Arsenal 2-0 on Matcday 6. Borussia Dortmund squeaked into the round of 16 with just about the last kick of their game against Marseille. Seeing Gonzalo Higuain cry reminded me of why a Group of Death stresses me out. Inevitably, hearts get broken.

Zenit St. Petersburg followed Atletico Madrid out of Group G, giving me a perfect record in this group and ensuring that I get to continue ogling the pretty that is Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in the next round.

Finally, in Group H, Barcelona won the Group and AC Milan did just enough to come out runners-up. But I ran out of fucks to give about this group when I saw that Barca and Milan were drawn together again.

So, another Group Stage ends, and draw day for the round of 16 awaits on December 16. I’ll be up bright and early for it.

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